Take any Running Room 5K Program and survey its members as to what drove them to sign up in the first place. You’ll get your typical nods to “I wanted to set a goal and meet it,” or “I’m trying to get into better shape.” Every once in a while, though, you’ll meet someone who is there for reasons that aren’t entirely athletic, or even physical. In a sport often tied to nutrition and stopwatches, the mental health benefits of running can often get overlooked. For runners like Moncton, New Brunswick’s Aynslie Croney, learning to run has transformed her spirit as much as her body.
“I used to see people running and think they were crazy,” says Aynslie. “Then I had my son, who came with a heavy dose of postpartum depression for Mommy. I have a history of anxiety and depression, but during my pregnancy, I was free of all symptoms and thought I would stay that way. But, when my son was four weeks old, I rejected him, and I knew then that something had to change with my mental health for the long term.”
Never much of an athlete growing up, it wasn’t immediately clear that physical exercise could be the answer she was seeking, but a chance meeting with a runner at work would change all that.
“We shared an office, and she was training for the Toronto marathon, so we talked a lot about what she was doing. The thing I noticed the most was a poster over her desk that read, 'You are one run away from a good mood,'” she remembers.
“Sometimes she would have a bad morning, so she would point to the poster and then go for a run on her lunch break. Watching her leave in a bad mood and return in a good mood got me thinking that maybe I should try running.”
So Aynslie made a 5K her goal, but after trying a couple of “Couch-to-5K” programs, she still couldn’t quite find her footing. “They couldn’t get me to my goal,” and she began to fear that she would never be good enough to complete a 5K “without walking more than half the race.” Then, after a big move to Moncton, Aynslie discovered the Learn to Run Program at her local Running Room. She recognized that running, like life, sometimes requires us to pause, regroup, and get back to basics.
Now, since October 2017, except for one injury, Aynslie has been meeting with a group at Running Room every week. Now in her fourth Running Room program, she has graduated to the 5K Training group and not only got over her fear of racing, but crushed it completely with a PB at last fall’s Legs for Literacy. “It was humid, it was muggy, I hurt all over, but I finished the race. Best feeling ever.” And she’s not done yet. She’s since committed to a 5K each month in 2019.
She credits the open, learning atmosphere at Running Room for helping her find her new stride. “My coaches have always been welcoming and encouraging,” she says. “There is the understanding that some people will run fast, and some will run slow. There is the encouragement to push yourself further than you have gone before, but without pushing yourself to an injury. Plus, it is a lot of fun meeting people new to running."
“At the end of each clinic, we all wait for everyone to finish. We form a line and give high fives to everyone. This has really helped form relationships with the other participants. Coaches also stick around after the run to allow for individual questions or concerns. My 5K coach still runs with us, and the clinic ended in December!”
Best of all, though, Aynslie has found a new lease on life, and the future looks bright. It’s even allowed her to forge a stronger bond with her son, with whom she completed the Santa Shuffle Fun Run last year.
“It’s been a lifesaver – literally,” she says of her time with the Running Room. “I am not sure of the science behind all of it, but when I run I am reducing my stress, I am sleeping better, I am socializing with other runners. Even when I run alone, I can forget what is happening in the rest of my life and spend time with me, and it helps me move forward daily. Sometimes, when my husband notices my mood is ‘off,’ he will suggest I go for a run. I am a better mom, wife, friend – all of it – when I run regularly."
“I guess I am now one of the crazy runners.”